For registered nurses and nurse practitioners, dealing with the state’s Board of Nursing is a familiar part of professional life. From the NCLEX exam to obtaining and renewing licenses, the bureaucratic aspects can be burdensome. However, when under investigation by the board, the challenges of maintaining an active license may pale compared to navigating the intricate legal process following a filed claim. Before and during this process, nurses need to be represented by lawyers experienced in this nuanced area of the law to protect their licenses.

Each Board of Nursing (BON) stems from a Nurse Practice Act enacted by state legislatures outlining guidelines to protect patients from unprofessional and unsafe nursing practices. The BON, comprising nurses and other members, is empowered to create rules and regulations, acting as the state’s Nurse Practice Act enforcers. Operating in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories, BONs form the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and go beyond being license storehouses. Their primary mission is safeguarding public health by overseeing licensed nurses and ensuring they deliver safe and competent care.

The number of complaints filed and investigations has increased in recent years, so it is more important than ever to understand the complaint process and the possible implications.

The Complaint and Filing Sources

When a complaint is filed against a nurse or practitioner, the board follows a specific process outlined by the NCSBN to determine if the nurse violated the law.

Complaints can come from various sources, including competitors, patients, families, employers, fellow nurses, or coworkers. Anyone concerned about a nurse’s unsafe, incompetent, or unethical behavior or suspicions of substance use or mental/physical impairment can file a complaint. While employment-related issues like rudeness fall outside the board’s authority, criminal convictions may prompt the state to initiate its own claim.

Complaints are often filed anonymously, so anyone can file a complaint anytime.

The Investigation Process

Upon receiving a complaint, the BON initiates the Complaint Resolution Process, first assessing if the facts alleged in the complaint align with state laws. If there’s potential violation evidence, even if the evidence is very small, a trained investigator, often a registered nurse, conducts further inquiries. This often involves interviews, obtaining records, site visits, etc. Commonly, the nurse investigator comes to the practice without any warning and makes an appointment as if the investigator were a patient. The nurse under investigation is then notified, and an opportunity to respond to the allegation is provided. If you get a surprise visit from the BON in this way, it is important to consult with your attorney before providing the BON with any information.

The Resolution Process

Many complaints can be resolved without formal administrative hearings. Negotiations between the nurse’s lawyers and the board occur through Zoom, email, phone, or in-person meetings. In rare cases, formal hearings may be necessary, presenting the case to the BON in a trial-like procedure.

Complaint resolutions can lead to dismissal, warnings, agreements on concerns like expired licenses, or proposed consent orders specifying terms and conditions. All resolutions are communicated in writing, indicating whether disciplinary action is involved and if the agreement will be made public.

Potential Disciplinary Actions Can Include License Revocation

If the board finds a nurse guilty, it determines disciplinary action based on the violation’s underlying cause and potential harm to patients or the public. Actions may include reprimands, probation, restrictions on practice, fines, penalties, or even license suspension or license revocation, leading to the loss of the nurse’s right to practice.

Schedule Your Consultation Today

Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you’re facing an investigation or disciplinary action, or if you just want to be prepared for the possibility, it’s crucial to have experienced legal representation on your side. Our law firm focuses on defending nurses and understanding the complexities of medical spa laws. We’re here to ensure your rights are protected and you receive a fair and just outcome.

To schedule a confidential consultation, click here. Our legal team here at Lengea Law is ready to guide you through every step, ensuring you’re not facing these challenges alone.

Remember, having knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel can make all the difference in these critical situations. Contact us today and take the first step towards protecting your professional future.